Testimony to the glory of God

Dear Pastor Mike & Lotti,

Praise the Lord!

Here is my testimony to the glory of God, how God used tough times to shape my life. Once again, thanks a million for all your support, help and prayer. I’m eternally grateful to both of you for your great support and help, especially during my difficult time. Have a blessed Sunday. God bless.

Kerala (a state in south India), was going through the worst time of its history. The most intense flood in the state’s recorded history, submerging as it did almost the entire coastline. Kerala was facing its worst flood in 100 years as water from 44 rivers and 33 dams were released, leaving 13 of the 14 County submerged. We are exposed to tumultuous and disastrous flooding which have destroyed both our life and living. The situation was much more frightening than I can explain.

We never know what will happen to us in this life, but God has a plan for all of us. It all started on Thursday, 16th August 2018 morning. There was surprisingly no breeze and it was growing darker by the minute. By early afternoon it seemed like night. Due to continuous rains and the fear of the dam collapsing, the authorities opened the floodgates and released more than 40,000 cusecs of water as compared to the usual 2000 cusecs of water during rainy seasons.  The water level in our area rose so suddenly, not due to rain, but because the dam water had to be opened by the government. The water level started raising steadily inside my home and reached nearly 6 feet high though we live at the highest point of the street.  My family and I scrambled to gather our belongings but in no time, everything was under floodwaters. The worst part was that it’s not stagnant water, the water was flowing with full force from one side of the house to the other. My house was a single-storey building and immediately we went up to the open terras from the ground floor. My parents and I stood above the open terras and waited for the help. The transformers and electricity board offices in most areas were under several feet of water, forcing the officials to cut off the power supply. Due to the darkness and heavy rain, I was very afraid.

Suddenly, I saw three big trees fell in the flood water and float away in the twinkling of an eye. I was shocked at what I saw and immediately kneeled down and prayed, “Merciful God, our heavenly father! The flood is so horrible. It will soon sweep my house away. Gracious God, all the elements of nature obey your command. Calm the waters that are threating us and turn our fear of your power into praise of your goodness”. The mobile signal towers have been seriously damaged in the flood and we didn't have network coverage in the mobile phones, hence we kept clapping and calling out for help. We had no idea of what was happening elsewhere in the village. Eventually, after waiting for five hours in the open terras in heavy rain we were saved by the fishermen in their boat. The fishermen from across Kerala have come together to the rescue of those in need. We knew that it was God who cared for and kept us safe.

We came to the relief camp with just the clothes we were wearing. The electronic goods, furniture, clothes were all carried off by the water. Most of the village was under 12 feet of water. There were more than 3500 people staying in our relief camp. Drinking water was a major problem as all the wells were contaminated with flood water and there was no electricity. For senior citizens at the camp, the situation was trying - despite their age and related health problems, they had to sleep on the cold floor without even a rudimentary mattress or sheets. But the biggest problem was the lack of electricity to charge mobile phones. There were only 6 toilets for the 3500 people in the camp which were another major issue. Indian army helicopters and boats kept up missions to drop food and water in our relief camp. Besides, they engaged in providing medical facilities to the affected people in the camp. Colleges, schools and other convention halls have been converted into shelters where the flood victims are being housed. Most of the people in the camp have lost their homes in the worst monsoon in a century that has been at its most furious since 8th August 2018.

After a week of fierce downpours, rainfall eased, and water levels have started receding in my area. Textile shops, footwear shops, bakeries, hotels, book stalls, jewellery shops, vegetable shops, the flood didn’t spare anyone in the market. Thousands of tonnes of food grains were damaged in the shops as it was impossible to move them to a safe location during the flood. Here in Chalakudy, (the place I live) the tragedy was more severe than any other place-and likely to be more enduring because the agriculture fields in this village have been destroyed. The paddy fields are now a sad sight filled with tonnes of waste materials, deposited by the flood waters. Needless to say, almost all the crops have been destroyed. Death of cattle was another devastating tragedy that makes the disaster even more sombre. The nauseating stench of rotting flesh fills the air. Thousands of cattle sheds were also gobbled up by the rushing waters.

When I returned to inspect the condition of our flood-battered home from the relief camp I was being greeted by poisonous snakes and other reptiles and insects. The flood water entered my house at 6.5 feet high and remained for three days which destroyed everything inside my house including furniture and home appliances. There is nothing to go back to. Besides, the fallen limbs and trees smashed roofs of our kitchen. We have a big well, but that's completely contaminated after the flooding. And I don't know what to do with that, how to purify it. Apart from the flooding, the garbage swept into my house during the flood. I am not sure when my family will be able to restore our normal lives. Our life has been turned upside down, now I need to find a huge amount of money to rebuild our shattered lives to normal. The flood has devastated the rhythm of my family and completely ruined our lives and its ripple effects will continue to be felt in our family for many months at least.

People were racing to retrieve whatever is left at their homes that were submerged in the flood waters for days. Some of my friends were even bitten by the snakes as the reptiles entered homes from the overflowing ponds and rivers. It took seven days for electricity and mobile connectivity to be restored completely in all parts of my village. Sights of death and destruction are all around. Many areas in my village are still covered in mud and slush as animal carcasses are strewn around and their stench has filled the air. Kuttanad (a place in Kerala), the rice bowl of Kerala known for its picturesque paddy fields and shimmering waterways, is still under water. The people who have returned to their homes face the gigantic task of cleaning their houses as it is filled with slush along with different species of reptiles including poisonous cobras.

The floods were triggered by an unusually heavy bout of rains in Kerala from 8th August 2018. Rainfall in the state during the monsoon has been more than 40% higher than normal, with torrential rain forcing authorities to release water from dozens of dangerously full dams, sending surges into rivers that then overflowed their banks.

Unprecedented floods in Kerala have created havoc. As per the official records, heavy rains and unprecedented floods in Kerala have claimed 474 lives and 36 people are still missing. Over 1.78 million people, including 212,000 women and 100,000 children below 12 years of age, are taking shelter in as many as 3,700 relief camps a fortnight after a murderous monsoon rampaged through the state amid the biggest rescue operation in the country. The government has estimated a loss of £2.21 billion. About 100,000 buildings, including people’s houses, have been damaged. The Public Works Department (PWD) says flooding battered a total of 34,732 km of roads, besides 218 bridges. PWD has assessed that it will take one-and-a-half years to repair the roads and bridges wrecked in the unprecedented deluge in Kerala. The crops in millions of hectares of land have been lost in the Kerala floods.  The massive flood in Kerala has been declared a calamity of severe nature. The experts say that an area under severe flood could take up to a decade to fully recover and described as one of the worst since 1924. The funds required were well beyond the resources available with the State including the State Disaster Response Fund.

India accounts for a fifth of deaths globally due to floods and heavy rain, with over 100,000 people dying nationwide over 64 years between 1953 and 2017, according to Central Water Commission.

PRAISE GOD FOR HIS LOVE:

In (Matthew 6:6) we read that God has a special reward for those who pray in secret, seen only by him. My prayer is that God will pour out a rich blessing upon Pastor Mike & Lotti and every other that has been praying for my family during this natural disaster. Please continue to remember our family in your prayer as the Lord brings us to your mind.

I know that we will also have many struggles in the days to come, but I am even more confident that God's grace will be with us too. I Thank you, Lord, for being strong in my life. I was going through hard times in my life and the Lord stood with me and helped me through. Thank you, Jesus, for all your blessings to me and my family. I know that you are watching over me, walking with me and helping me throughout the disaster.

From my hearts, I gave thanks for God’s protection for us. I prayed to God in tears, God! All these are your deeds and your great power and sovereignty. In the following days, I will go all out to perform my duty to repay your love for me. Then God’s word came into my mind, “The heart and spirit of man are held in the hand of God, and all the life of man is beheld in the eyes of God. Regardless of whether or not you believe this, any and all things, living or dead, will shift, change, renew, and disappear according to God’s thoughts. This is how God rules over all things” (God Is the Source of Man’s Life). From God’s words, I knew that all the living or dead things shift with God’s thoughts. In the disaster, I truly experienced God’s authority and power and saw the deeds of the practical God, which increased my faith in God. Thank God! Through this catastrophe, I deeply tasted that a tiny creature is so small and powerless before the disaster. If not for God’s mercy, care and protection, created man can do nothing faced with disaster. God’s protection for me in this calamity allowed me to know God’s authority and wisdom and even more to truly feel God’s love and care for us, and that God is at our side without leaving for a moment. I am also willing to commit my all into God’s hand, submit to God’s sovereignty, and try my best to fulfil my duty as a creature. I offer up my heartfelt thanks and praises to God. All the glory be to God! Thank you, Jesus; Praise you, Jesus.

THE FIRST TURNING POINT OF MY LIFE:

I was baptized as a baby and raised Catholic but never had any form of a relationship with Jesus. I went through every class and Confirmation because it was what I was supposed to do as a Catholic child. I struggled to connect with a higher power. It wasn’t until I met with Revd. Mike Thomas, Senior Minister from the Central Baptist Church, Luton on May 2011, that I began to completely open my heart to a relationship with Jesus. When I walked into Central Baptist Church, Luton for the first time the atmosphere was just so loving and happy, I knew that this was the church for me. Not only was the church significantly more accepting, it was a joy to be there, for the first time in my life I enjoyed going to church. Once I began attending the Sunday services at Central Baptist Church I began to feel at home and I began to strive to be more connected to my faith. One of the most significant lesson I’ve learned from Pastor Mike Thomas at Central Baptist Church is that God’s love is unconditional and enduring.

I started reading the Bible vividly and have found that without Jesus, salvation would be impossible and until my baptism, the Bible describes us as enslaved to our self-serving human nature. I knew baptism represents a serious, life-altering commitment and realized that God wanted a relationship with me and from that point onwards, I made Him a part of my entire life. As such, I was baptised from the Central Baptist Church, Luton on Sunday, 13th May 2012 at 10.30am in order to solidify my faith and show that this was a choice that I consciously made for myself. It was an incredible moment when I accepted Jesus into my heart. After baptism, God begins to transform my life through the power of His Spirit.

What happens at baptism is a literal transfer of ownership. My lives now belong to God. From that time onwards, I made a commitment to tell God, as Jesus did, "... Not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42). When we receive God's Spirit we begin a new life of spiritual growth, of replacing our selfish human nature with God's divine nature. It is only through the gift of God's Spirit that we can develop the godly attitude of obedience and faith.

Looking back on my life I’m able to see God’s interference in everything in my life. Events in my life during the past four weeks have caused me to rely more on prayer and God. I’ve never doubted that God was with me, but I haven’t always reached out. Now, through prayer, bible reading, and fasting prayer I’m seeing more gaudily how God is working in my life to bring me closer to Him. There have been many obstacles put in my way over the years and I have come to know through my faith and love for God that He doesn't bring us to (obstacles) but he sure does help us through (our struggles). I have been trying very hard to be kind and not complain about things. One of my favourite verses is Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I want my life to be God driven as I grow with Him and each other through the coming years. I want to set an example for my family and friends that I am serious about my love for God. I want the world to know that, I am committed to my relationship with God and that I look forward to what the future brings with Him. Now I see my story as a gift and I know there are others in the same boat and, hopefully, these words can help them on their journey, too. I want to serve Jesus as many ways as possible for the balance of my remaining life.

May your acts of kindness be repaid fully by the LORD, God of Israel.  All the glory be to God! Thank you, Jesus; Praise you, Jesus.

With my thoughts, love and prayer,

Leo Yohannan

 


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